How do you reduce the friction generated by the DevonThink interface?

how do you reduce the friction generated by the DevonThink interface?

DevonThink is a great App, but I experience some kind of friction I want (need?) to reduce.

Specifically, moving from a file to another one usually needs many clicks:

  • I’m on a file
  • I go back to the group of the file
  • I go to the group of the new file (if it’s not in the same group)
  • I right click and open to another window

The friction gets higher if I don’t remember where I’ve stored the second file, because I have to search for it, losing focus from the group I’m working on.

There are many other examples of such friction here and there, and I wonder if I can reduce it.
For example, with Hookmark I can jump from a file to another one (even on another location) with just two clicks.

Ok Hookmark has different purposes, and I can use it because it’s in my SetApp subscription, and DevonThink works very well with it.
But I’d like to install the less software as possible.

I also tested to work outside of DT and without it, but it has so many useful native tools I don’t want to live without.

Hope it makes sense.

Does “moving” actually mean switching between two documents? In that case tabs or Go > To Document… might be an option.

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Open up both files in seperate DEVONthink windows, then use move the mouse and one click into each target window does it.


I use Favorites for quick access to my often accessed files


I have to say my own methods, though they are idiosyncratic have no friction at all really. But what I do, to find is set up a smart group which includes obviously ‘recently opened or modified’, then go to that with a Workspace key. I find everything pretty much at hand, especially if I also use the AI to find related documents. I am not fully ‘automated’ and much of what I do is held ‘in mind’ as it were.

It is amazing: I did have Trickster but I got a bit tired of its glitches as I saw it, last update I had some problem with it, can’t remember what and dropped it for my smart group. However I keep EVERTHING in DEVONthink 3 now other than larger documents I am writing or things I am actually writing a lot on. That is a good strategy frankly and I recommend it.


Maybe this will help:

  1. Enable View > As List and View > Widescreen. This will result in the Sidebar on the left, the the Item List in the center, and the View/Edit pane on the right.

  2. Find some document in the Item List that you want to work on. It will be shown in the View/Edit pane.

  3. To open another document, but keep the current document and Group open so as to not lose your place, scroll through the Item List. If your document is in the item list, proceed to the next step. Otherwise, if it is in a Group, expand the Group by clicking on the Group’s disclosure triangle at the left of the Group name. Don’t click on the Group icon, or the name. If you do, the View/Edit pane will no longer show the first document. If you do click on the Group icon or name accidentally, just click on the Back control (the left-pointing sideways “V”) in the top left of the View/Edit pane, and the document will be restored in the View/Edit pane.

  4. In the Item List, locate the document you want to open. Don’t click on it. Instead, hold the Option key down and right-click on the document’s name, and choose “Open in Tabs” from the menu.

  5. You now have 2 documents open in tabs in the View/Edit pane. You can’t lose the location of the first document because it’s still open, in a tab. And, the Group containing the first document still has focus in the Item List.

I use the Widescreen view exclusively, so the procedure may be somewhat different for different Views.



I’d add recently created and recently added to the Smart Group’s criteria. And maybe two Smart Groups, one for documents and one for groups, might come handy.

And if Smart Groups could be added to Favorites both methods could be combined. Still hoping for this being possible in a future version of DEVONthink.


+1. (I know this comes up a lot, but it helps the DT team to prioritise potential new features if they can gauge how widely there’s interest.)

Some great tips in this thread. A couple of other things you can do with a recently Smart Group:

  1. Close the sidebar and inspectors and shrink the window to taste, so that you have a permanently open list of documents you’ve been working on, and can just double-click on any item to open it in its own window.

  2. Select All in the window, control-option-command-C, open a new or existing document (which could be an Annotation), and paste. This gives you a saveable list of clickable links to all the documents you’ve opened/added/created from latest to earliest.


It’s already possible to add local smart groups (the ones inside databases) to the favorites, only global ones can’t be added (yet).

My bad, I meant the global ones but didn’t write it.

No need to worry, I just wanted to clarify what is currently possible and what not. And yes, it’s definitely planned for an upcoming release.

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Would a list of links, like what the second brain camp calls a map of contents, help? You could put your map of contents in the attachment of the file in question. Using attachments like that has kind of become a fixation for me.

It’s also helpful to open an attachment in a separate window so you don’t have to be constrained by the inspector’s small attachment view.

That would give you one-click access to any related files you already know about. I don’t know if that gets you a step closer to a solution or not.

While I have been using DT for a few months, I still consider myself very much a beginner. That said, one thing that has helped me has ben the vast amount of keyboard shortcuts that are available. I certainly haven’t memorized them all, but using keystrokes to quickly move between panes and tabs, or to just quickly perform a task that otherwise might take a few clicks to perform has helped me use DT in a more efficient way. Anyway, including keyboard shortcuts in your workflow may be more helpful than you initially realize.


And via System Settings > Keyboard > Shortcuts it’s possible to add even more shortcuts or to change the existing ones.

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I don’t have any friction using the DT interface, but I also have my layout set up as @Gowanee suggests. I do most my reading in the main window, and therefore always have the item list on the left ready for me when I want to change doc (which is one click, assuming the file I need is in the same group). Part of this is personal taste so not everyone likes things like this. I like to be able to see where I am in my database and I prefer not to open new windows unless I have to (I’m like this with every app, not just DT).

I rarely have two windows open for DT, but when I do I choose carefully about which one I need to be the new “floating” window. Usually it will be a note file of some kind, and I will continue to read in the main window. Again, my behaviour is actually the same with other apps too. Usually if I open a new additional window, it’s for note-taking and the “reference” doc/note/whatever remains in the main window.


I rarely navigate in modern computer systems. To move quickly between files and groups in Devonthink3 I use search and keyboard shortcuts. Specifically for “Go To” I have defined the following (on a Mac):

CTRL-OPT-CMD G     Go To File
CTRL-CMD G         Go To Group (I think this is the default)

The only things I can’t do with a shortcut is “Replicate To” and “Duplicate To”.

The search implementation in Devonthink3 is fuzzy-ish, which makes finding documents in big databases much easier.

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That’s possible too, just use Data > Move To… (Cmd-Ctrl-M), enter the search string to find the desired destination and finally press the return key while pressing no (move), Option (duplicate) or Command-Option (replicate) modifier keys.

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Ahhh… life’s complete!

PS: From Windows > Popovers > Utility Popovers > Move To in the built-in Help and manual

Thank you all for your reply.
Thank to your insightful replies, I realise there are many shortcuts that may help and give me what I’m looking for, and that I wasn’t aware of.
It will take some time to learn.

Furthermore, I’ve installed an Alfred Workflow that allows to accomplish some operations straight from its command line.

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